Yesterday I attended a film conference. I found myself at a talk in which filmmakers were advised how to negotiate deals.
I felt sick listening, and wondered why. Monopolies were an unquestioned, underlying assumption. When the time came for audience comments and questions, I said that rights were monopolies, that monopolies prevent the market from functioning, that distributors can be great if they’re not granted monopolies, and that it’s up to us artists to not grant those monopolies in the first place.
Naturally, the speaker wasn’t too thrilled with my comment.
If filmmakers realized monopolies don’t serve them, he’d be out of a job (he’s one of the many professionals who “help” artists by “protecting” them). Later, I came up with a metaphor (or meat-aphor) that helped explain my feelings: being a Free Culture advocate at a film conference is like being a vegetarian at a butchers’ seminar.
As a vegetarian I’ve learned better than to discuss dietary habits with the many carnivores who are my friends and loved ones. So I’m questioning what I’m doing at these conferences. I wouldn’t walk into a butchers’ conference and advocate vegetarianism. But what would I do if I were invited, because some of the butchers wanted to learn about vegetarianism, if only to marvel at its freakishness?